I’ve had two this past week with affluent Ivy-educated contemporaries. They can name the three branches of government.
The dinners were enjoyable, disheartening — and scary.
Enjoyable, because the food was great (and free! the Republicans paid!) and these are really nice, funny, bright people, on one of whom I had a mad crush when I was 16 . . . and here we were at dinner with his 20-something daughter (who emailed me later to thank me for standing up to him: her politics are like mine), seeing each other for the first time in 50+ years, talking over old times. We talked about his Yale dorm-mate George W. Bush. And we talked about Trump. He’s for Trump.
To me, that’s disheartening — and scary.
Yes, my friend readily agreed, Trump’s a horrible person in a lot of ways, but he’s standing up to China. Chinese competitors have stolen his family company’s intellectual property and he is rightly angry. (I noted that Obama’s TransPacific Partnership would have gone a long way toward reining in China’s Pacific dominance, and that it was a tragedy Trump scuttled it.) He handed me a copy of The Shadow War: Inside Russia’s and China’s Secret Operations to Defeat America, which I look forward to reading.
And then there was also this: he couldn’t vote for Hillary. I found that scary, too.
“Why couldn’t you vote for Hillary?” I asked him. (His daughter certainly had.)
“Because she’s corrupt.”
Skipping the part about . . . wait, what — Trump is not corrupt?!?!?!? (there are not enough question marks in the world adequately to punctuate that) . . . I jumped straight to:
“How is Hillary corrupt?”
“She’s corrupt!” he explained.
“Give me examples.”
“She looted $2 million from the Clinton Foundation to pay for Chelsea’s wedding.”
“Whaaaaaaat? That’s ridiculous.”
“No. First of all, it can’t be true.”
“If it were, everyone in the world would have heard about it, endlessly — like her running a child-sex ring from the basement of a pizza shop that didn’t have a basement — and I never heard this one.”
“Well, check it out. It’s true.”
“It can’t be. Give me another example.”
His eyes searched the distance. Chelsea’s wedding was the only one that came to mind.
When I got home, it took about 30 seconds, and I wrote him:
Thanks for dinner!
SO much better than my favorite place in London, the Shed!
[I had told him the story of The Shed, which as you know proves how easy it is to deceive people. If a non-existent restaurant can become the #1-rated London restaurant on Trip Adviser, with people begging for reservations, is it not possible that thousands of trained Russians can make people believe Hillary is corrupt?]
Do you know the site Snopes.com? It’s neither liberal nor conservative; for 25 years it’s been investigating assertions that seem hard to believe – confirming some of them, debunking others, and splitting the difference I cases where they find partial basis in fact.
(You’ll know you’re at the end of their long report when you get to the part about Trump’s Foundation being shut down for malfeasance.)
It was simply another effective piece of Russian disinformation.
I say effective, because YOU accepted it as truth and passed it on — as Trump and Putin hoped you would.
Per Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, Talking To Strangers, we as humans are predisposed to believe people are telling the truth. But that can have really bad consequences. (Don’t miss the chapter on the Brits’ believing Hitler only wanted the Sudetenland, as it relates to Putin’s only wanting Crimea.) You believed Hillary stole $2 million from poor Haitians to pay for Chelsea’s wedding . . . your daughter’s young friend is certain Hillary was complicit in the deaths of four Americans at Benghazi . . . 51% of Republicans believed Obama was born abroad . . . 53% currently believe Trump is a better president than Abraham Lincoln . . . and of the millions who believe Hillary was involved in a child sex ring run out of a DC pizza shop, one showed up with an AR-15 and started firing.
(See: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal: Inside the web of conspiracy theorists, Russian operatives, Trump campaigners and Twitter bots who manufactured the ‘news’ that Hillary Clinton ran a pizza-restaurant child-sex ring.)
I’ll stop. But I’d be really upset if someone set out to ruin YOUR reputation based on totally bogus lies. We may lose our democracy over this. Or worse.
Thanks for The Shadow War. It’s real! And we’re losing it.
So that was my dinner with this really wonderful guy, who I was very happy to see again.
I had the butternut squash soup, as did his daughter, and — as my entree — the taramasalata appetizer, which is served with home-made potato chips that take guilty pleasure to the kind of level where you need a safe word.
A couple of nights later: dinner at the Harvard Club with six classmates, some of whom I did not know, like the guy to my right, a strong Trump supporter, as it turned out, whom I instantly liked because he told me that mine was the only investment guide he’d ever needed and asked whether I still had that tuna fish under my bed. Flattery will get you everywhere.
But really? He liked Trump? Passionately, as it turned out — as did the guy across the table, a friend of 53 years’ standing. (Two others were Republicans appalled by Trump; and two, strong Democrats like me.) But the two Trumpers could have traded places with Jim Jordan or Devon Nunes. Or the new Lindsey Graham. Or Kelly Ann Conway. Talking very fast, dominating the conversation.
It was difficult to stay calm.
I brought up the example of Hillary’s looting the Foundation for Chelsea’s wedding, which they had not heard but were sure could be true. Who’s to know?
“We’re to know!” I said. Some things are true! Some things are false! The world is not flat! I know it looks flat (if bumpy) but it’s just not!
That much, the guy to my right conceded. But climate? Weighing the opinions of 11,000 scientists worldwide against the opinion of Trump and Senator Snowball? He was with Trump. The entire country of Vietnam will be under water at high tide by 2o5o according to the new UN report, but he was unconcerned. (“Obama bought a place in Martha’s Vineyard,” he told me. If climate change and rising sea levels were real, he wouldn’t have done that.”) Weighing the opinions of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies against the word of Vladimir Putin at that Helsinki press conference? Well, who’s to know which to believe? Those 1,027 Republican and Democratic former federal prosecutors? “So what.”
It was civil. And the sauteed spinach and Brussels sprouts, all I had, were superb. But it was disheartening — and scary.
Maybe I’ll get the Yalie to vote our way if it’s Bloomberg. Or just to stay home. He replied to my email the next day saying it had made him think. That doesn’t usually happen. One more reason to love him.
But the two Harvard Trumpers? They are as passionately for Trump as I am horrified.
So I come back to my constant refrain: This election will be about turn-out, not persuasion. Organizing, not advertising.
And the organizing snowball only grows huge, accumulating more and more volunteers, if it starts rolling downhill early. From the top of the mountain.
The executive director of the Florida Democratic Party told a small group of us Tuesday: “You may not expect to hear this from me, but we had enough money in 2016 and 2018. The problem was, we didn’t have enough TIME. Of the $165 million we got in those two cycles, $160 million came in after the primaries.”
Money NOW is SO much more powerful than the SAME money when most people give it.
If Florida had had (say) a third of that money a year out, in 2015 and 2017, we could well have won the state in 2016 (and thus the Presidency, and the Court); and Florida’s governorship and Senate seat in 2018.
Everything many of us care about is at stake next year.
The time to fix that is this year.
In case you’re in a position to do so, click here!
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